Is your golf swing a mess? 3 SUREFIRE Tips for Pure shots in 2018

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The Importance of a Proper Shoulder Turn

This article title is simple in nature but can be complicated in terms of execution. The shoulder-turn. A common golf term used to describe the circuitous path that the shoulders trace in the backswing and then on the thru swing. If the shoulder turn is so often discussed then why is there so much hype surrounding it? It’s because, in it’s simplicity, it’s a complicated and contradictory feeling when compared to most sports people play.  In this video and article, I will show you how to achieve a proper, body-friendly shoulder turn while also highlighting the differences between a proper and improper shoulder turn.

What’s a Proper Shoulder Turn?

Aside from the setup, the most important key for striking the golf ball solidly (with a nice divot after the ball), is the motion of the shoulders. The main goal of the shoulders is to turn them while maintaining your body’s inclination to the golf ball. Assuming you have a good setup, this would mean turning your shoulders at approximately 90 degrees to your spine (as shown below):

 

With a shoulder turn like this, it’s easier to return the club to the ball in the same place every time–a key for consistently good contact.

What a Proper Turn Does for You

A proper shoulder turn does the following with your swing:

  1. Allows for a Simple and Effortless Backswing: The golf club is attached to the hands, which is attached to the arms, and, consequently, the shoulders. With a proper shoulder turn, the golf club will trace an on-plane path, following the motion of your body. There will be less of a need to rely on swing positions. Instead, you can just SWING.
  2. Allows for the Correct Body Pivot: As the shoulder turns, the body reacts. With a good shoulder turn, the body can pivot with more power potential, allowing the hips to turn more and also freeing up more shoulder turn.
  3. Decreases body stress and pain: As the golfer maintains their incline to the ball in the swing, the upper back controls the shoulder turn. This is good. The upper back is designed to handle turning. When the golfer loses their incline to the ball, the shoulders turn level and cause a great deal of stress on the lower back. In addition, a poor shoulder turn may prevent mobility which can place stress on other parts of your body.

A Real-Life Example

This is one of my students. He has arthritis in the middle of his back and it is a very sensitive area for him. He turned his shoulders level to the ground with caused a myriad of swing problems as well as body pain. Turning his shoulders level caused his body to behave in a disconnected fashion. As a result:

  • His lower body did not turn
  • His arms disconnected from his body in the swing
  • His swing became steep and choppy (causing tops, slices, fat shots)
  • He experienced off-balanced swing behavior

Take a look at his takeaway below. You can already see the disconnected swing forming:

don

The red lines represent the ideal shoulder plane for his swing. The yellow lines represent his current level shoulder turn. Look at the legs, they appear locked and uncomfortable. They are absorbing a ton of stress. The lower back is also locked. The is very little freedom of motion.

Unlocking Your Shoulder Turn

As with my student, I will recommend the same drill to you. This is great to work on in the winter months while you prepare for the upcoming golf season. Check out the result of it below:

don2

My student was able to increase his shoulder turn by allowing the shoulders to turn 90 degrees to the spine. And:

  • His lower body was free to pivot
  • His upper back turned while his lower back remained stress-free
  • He maintained his inclination to the ball

The Shoulder Turn Drill

The drill is very simple and will help you to achieve the proper feeling of a good shoulder turn. You can then build the feeling from the drill into the full swing for best results.

How to do the Drill

(I recommend doing this in a mirror as well) Find your proper shoulder turn by doing the following:

  1. Grab a golf club, alignment stick, or other similar object.
  2. Place the club across your chest with the grip-end facing the target (see below)
  3. Turn shoulders so that the grip end of the club points towards the golf ball. This is an exaggerated feeling designed to help you feel a downward shoulder turn. As you turn your chest to the right, the shoulders should turn down and inward–so as to achieve the proper movements of tilting, turning, and extending required to maintain your inclination to the golf ball.

 

Have a wonderful week and perfect that turn!

Tom Saguto, PGA

Stay Sharp |4 Ways to Improve Your Game this Winter!

Who says that you can’t practice in the winter when it’s snowing or it’s too darn cold outside? Yes, a golfer’s winter break can cause doubt and uncertainty to creep into one’s game just by the sheer fact of not playing golf. Then, all of a sudden, Spring arrives, and the anxiety and excitement of the first tee brings a thought of, “I wonder what the heck I am going to bring to the course today.” Sure, that’s part of the anxiety and fun of having a winter break, but there are ways to stay sharp in the off-season that can prevent your game from changing drastically.

Materials recommended:

  • A mirror (or other reflective device such as a turned off TV screen or window) so that you can see and feel the right swing changes
  • A short club (wedge or 9-iron, we don’t want to break anything inside the house)
  • A committed practice routine and positive mentality (for success!)

#1. Make a Routine Posture Check

Your posture is extremely critical to your body’s ability to swing the golf club in the proper positions. Also, bad posture is one of the main reasons people experience body pain related to golf. When you stop playing golf for a while, your posture and “golf feels” are the first to go. Simply put, we tend to get lazy with our posture in the winter and it affects your game on the 1st tee in the Spring.

A good posture allows the shoulders to turn on their proper inclination to the ground (usually, 90-degrees to your spine). See below:

 

Most golf swing flaws (inside takeaway, arm lifting, swaying) can be cured with a proper posture. Check your posture in a mirror by doing the following tip in the video:

 

#2. Check Your Shoulder Turn and Pivot

A great posture sets you up for a clean, powerful strike but, when you take time off, you can lose the feeling of the proper shoulder turn. Ideally, the shoulders turn on a 90-degree angle to the spine. For most, this is the idea of turning the shoulder downward. The great thing about perfecting your shoulder turn is that,  if you have a good turn, then the club will trace the correct positions in the backswing. There is no need to worry about finding the right positions ALL THE TIME!

I recommend doing this in a mirror as well. Find your proper shoulder turn by doing the following:

  1. Grab a golf club, alignment stick, or other similar object.
  2. Place the club across your chest with the grip-end facing the target (see below)
  3. Turn shoulders so that the grip end of the club points towards the golf ball. This is an exaggerated feeling designed to help you feel a downward shoulder turn. As you turn your chest to the right, the shoulders should turn down and inward–so as to achieve the proper movements of tilting, turning, and extending.

#3. Stretch and Be Active!

Stretching is crucial in the off-season. Most people are less active in the winter and spend more time inside. Less activity leads to tighter muscles and stress if not appropriately dealt with. Stretching keeps muscles loose and limber, in an active state–you’ll also feel a lot better too! I recommend actively stretching (3-5 days a week, every day is best-if you can). Do the following stretches and hold them for 20 seconds each time (Click on the stretches to find guides on how to best stretch that area):

#4. Visualize

This is the best way to stay sharp for the off-season (Posture and swing aside). What I am referring to is mental visualization. Preparing the mind to play golf. Golfers should not underestimate the power of their mind in golfing success. Here is a true story related to the power of your mind:

A US soldier stationed overseas loved to play golf. He was a scratch golfer before leaving on his tour of duty, routinely shooting around even par. However, due to his situation he was unable to hit balls or play for a couple of years while on his tour of duty. He loved golf so much and couldn’t imagine being away from it for such an extended period so he decided he would find a way to play golf……..in his mind.

He would play golf at his home course every night before going to bed. Closing his eyes, he visualized and played 18 holes of golf. Playing the first hole he could hear the wind, birds chirping, and smell the fresh-cut grass, the dew was still fresh. Then, he gazed down the 1st hole fairway and pictured his shot shape, a high draw 3-iron for the short par-4. He imagined feeling and making his swing, exactly as he had done many times on the real course before. He hit the draw perfectly, a well executed and crisp 3-iron.

He would imagine walking down the fairway to his next shot, in real time, his mind’s eye believing and seeing everything he visualized. Then he pulled out his rangefinder and shot the laser at the flag situated on the middle of the green. 143 yards it said. The approach was simple, a slight wind to the left with a bunker on the right and also the left-front of the green. A gentle slope fed off of the green’s front into a patch of tightly mown fairway. He planned his approach, visualizing a shot that would start right and let the wind draw in to the middle of the green for him. He made a practice swing, went through his pre-shot routine and executed the swing, feeling the mashed contact of the ball on the face and seeing the perfectly-shaped 8-inch divot of fresh turf fly in front of him. The ball lands 5 feet from the hole–a beautiful shot. He picks up the divot and replaces it in the bentgrass turf.

He would continue to play 18-holes of golf in this mental state of extreme detail every night. Covering every hole, shot, pre-shot routine, and experiencing everything he could craft in his mind. 

Finally, his tour of duty was over. He was able to return home after a couple of years. Excited as ever to play golf again! He hadn’t swung the club in so long–but he visualized it every night. He stepped up on the real course that day and played it exactly as he had played it every night while overseas. He shot an even-par 72. He cried tears of joy and celebrated the moment, he was still the golfer that he was before he left. 

A remarkable story, and one worth mentioning. Can you imagine the happiness he was feeling? This explains that your mind is more that capable of controlling your golf swing, swing feelings, and is also able to create situations in your mind that affect how you feel and your perspective on life. This golfer never touched a club in two years, but because he was so detailed, very specific in his intentions with his imaginary golf shots, and the situations he created became as if they were true to life. His mind believed that he was actually playing golf.

You can do the same thing this offseason. The more specific you can be with your mind, the more likely you are going to believe what you are capable of. You don’t have to play 18 holes every night in your mind, but you can play 3 holes before drifting off to sleep. Doing this keeps your golfing mind sharp and also helps you to retain the feeling you had when you were swinging your best.

Believe it. Feel each swing. Embrace each shot. Every shot is a new and exciting challenge. Have fun this offseason!

In good swinging,

Tom Saguto, PGA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Visualization | Stay Sharp | Break Mental Barriers

The brain is an asset in golf and can also be your worst enemy. The key is finding out what makes your brain fire on the proper cylinders to keep your golfing mind in a peak performing state. One of the ways to keep your golfing mind sharp is to visualize, and visualize deeply.

This is the best way to stay sharp for the off-season (Posture and swing aside). What I am referring to is mental visualization. Preparing the mind to play golf. Golfers should not underestimate the power of their mind in golfing success. Here is a true story related to the power of your mind:

A US soldier stationed overseas loved to play golf. He was a scratch golfer before leaving on his tour of duty, routinely shooting around even par. However, due to his situation he was unable to hit balls or play for a couple of years while on his tour of duty. He loved golf so much and couldn’t imagine being away from it for such an extended period so he decided he would find a way to play golf……..in his mind.

He would play golf at his home course every night before going to bed. Closing his eyes, he visualized and played 18 holes of golf. Playing the first hole he could hear the wind, birds chirping, and smell the fresh-cut grass, the dew was still fresh. Then, he gazed down the 1st hole fairway and pictured his shot shape, a high draw 3-iron for the short par-4. He imagined feeling and making his swing, exactly as he had done many times on the real course before. He hit the draw perfectly, a well executed and crisp 3-iron.

He would imagine walking down the fairway to his next shot, in real time, his mind’s eye believing and seeing everything he visualized. Then he pulled out his rangefinder and shot the laser at the flag situated on the middle of the green. 143 yards it said. The approach was simple, a slight wind to the left with a bunker on the right and also the left-front of the green. A gentle slope fed off of the green’s front into a patch of tightly mown fairway. He planned his approach, visualizing a shot that would start right and let the wind draw in to the middle of the green for him. He made a practice swing, went through his pre-shot routine and executed the swing, feeling the mashed contact of the ball on the face and seeing the perfectly-shaped 8-inch divot of fresh turf fly in front of him. The ball lands 5 feet from the hole–a beautiful shot. He picks up the divot and replaces it in the bentgrass turf.

He would continue to play 18-holes of golf in this mental state of extreme detail every night. Covering every hole, shot, pre-shot routine, and experiencing everything he could craft in his mind. 

Finally, his tour of duty was over. He was able to return home after a couple of years. Excited as ever to play golf again! He hadn’t swung the club in so long–but he visualized it every night. He stepped up on the real course that day and played it exactly as he had played it every night while overseas. He shot an even-par 72. He cried tears of joy and celebrated the moment, he was still the golfer that he was before he left. 

A remarkable story, and one worth mentioning. Can you imagine the happiness he was feeling? This explains that your mind is more that capable of controlling your golf swing, swing feelings, and is also able to create situations in your mind that affect how you feel and your perspective on life. This golfer never touched a club in two years, but because he was so detailed, very specific in his intentions with his imaginary golf shots, and the situations he created became as if they were true to life. His mind believed that he was actually playing golf.

You can do the same thing this offseason. The more specific you can be with your mind, the more likely you are going to believe what you are capable of. You don’t have to play 18 holes every night in your mind, but you can play 3 holes before drifting off to sleep. Doing this keeps your golfing mind sharp and also helps you to retain the feeling you had when you were swinging your best.

Believe it. Feel each swing. Embrace each shot. Every shot is a new and exciting challenge. Have fun this offseason!

In good swinging,

Tom Saguto, PGA

Quick Tip| Episode #1 | Maintain Your Swing Center

These quick tips are designed much like a grab-n-go type of article. A pre-range or quick pre-play tip that you can use easily on the course. It won’t have as much detail but it will be to the point.

This first tip is about maintaining your swing center. Imagine two circles: one around your shoulders and a larger one representing the clubhead arc. A golfer will make solid contact more consistently with the golf ball provided that they maintain their shoulder center throughout the swing. Tom Saguto, PGA shows you in the following video how to maintain your swing center for solid contact.

Things that Cause the Shoulder/Swing Center to Move

  1. Weight Shift: Shifting weight back and forth causes the swing circle to move all over the place, causing timing issues and inconsistency.
  2. Arm Lifting: When the arms lift in the swing they are pulled off of the body and forced off of the natural swing arc preset at address.
  3. Address Posture: Tilting too far away from the target in the setup causes the golfer to swing behind the ball, tilting to far toward the target causes the golfer to hit too steeply into the ball.
  4. Weight Distribution: Weight hanging on the rear foot in setup causes the golfer to hit behind the ball. Weight that is more forward encourages a powerful, descending blow into the golf ball. Weight that is too far forward can cause thin shots

Keeping the Swing Center in Place

To keep the swing center in place do the following as you swing:

  1. Weight Forward (and keep it forward): 60-70% of weight on lead leg. Maintain it there throughout the swing. This causes your body to stay covering the golf ball for solid contact and it also requires a lot less hand-eye coordination.
  2. Cover the golf ball in setup: Setup with less tilt away from the target. Get your shirt buttons over the golf ball and keep the chest pointing down at the ball as you swing. This helps turn the shoulders on an incline, another great contact key.
  3. Hands Forward (inside left thigh): Place the hands forward and preset impact. The left arm represents the radius of your swing circle. If the hands are back, you encourage a strike behind the ball and it’s more likely you will fade it. If the hands are forward you encourage a strike in front of the ball and increase the likelihood of a draw. The hands should be placed inside the left thigh for optimal ballstriking.

Have fun and enjoy making better contact!

In good swinging,

Tom Saguto, PGA

Rolling Hands in the Takeaway Fix|The Annoying Inside Club Sucking Move

If you’ve had this problem, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That dreaded INSIDE MOVE. But, not the good one. It’s the bad one. That inside takeaway where the club gets rolled in well behind your body and falls off plane. The complications from this move are devastating. You usually fight some variety of hooks, pushes, push-fades, and pulls. Or, you might even fight a big slice if you swing over-the-top as a result. I fought this move too and it was very frustrating! If you are fighting this swing flaw take a look at the video below and get rid of it forever. Tom Saguto, PGA will show you how to get the takeaway right and set up your swing for success.

The Bad and Good Inside Takeaways

In a geometrically efficient golf swing the club will naturally travel inside the target line instead of straight back. This is due to the fact that the club is swung on an arc. Some golf instruction highlights that any inside takeaway is bad. I would like you to be aware that one form of inside takeaways is bad and one is good. Let’s dig into it!

The Bad Takeaway

This is the takeaway that causes a majority of swing problems. The club is rolled behind the body in the backswing–off the swing plane–and then the golfer resorts to either swinging too much from in-to-out or lifts the arms and swings steeply over-the-top on the downswing. It looks something like this video and picture below:

insidesuck

Notice how the clubface is pointing horizontal with the ground? Also look at the position of the clubhead, it is well behind my body. This indicates the hands have rolled open in the takeaway. Now the golfer will have to compensate for this problem by trying to close the clubface with a steeper downswing.

The Good Inside Takeaway

Remember how I mentioned that the club will naturally travel to the inside because the club travels on an arc? This is true and the club travels on this arc without hand rolling or rotation. In other words, the clubface is square–or pointing at the golf ball–when you reach the end of your takeaway. There is no rolling or side-to-side hand movement in the takeaway. Check out the diagram below showing the swing arc:

effortless3.jpg

This shows the path of the club on the backswing and thru swing. The club travels back inside the target line–demonstrated by the blue line–and then, on the downswing, returns to the ball on the same line. This is called swinging from the inside on the downswing. But on the backswing it is called taking the club inside.

Here is what a good inside takeaway looks like (watch the video from 0:00 to 0:12

Here is a picture of a good inside takeaway:

lift2
No rolling hands in takeaway = Club riding up on proper swing plane.

Ideally, you want to have this type of relationship in the takeaway. If the hands don’t roll then the club works properly up the shaft plane and the shoulder is allowed to turn downward allowing your body to maintain its inclination to the ground.

The Fix

Finally free yourself from this madness! The fix is rather simple but you have to be dedicated to the process of making the change. Go through the following steps:

  1. Focus on No Hand Rolling in Takeaway: The hands will no roll over, rather the back of your lead hand (left hand for righties) will be pointing toward the ball at the end of the takeaway. As a result, the relationship you maintain at address is still maintained in the takeaway.
  2. Use a Mirror: Check the takeaway using a mirror. Make sure the clubface is still square and the club has not rolled behind you. Match the feeling with what you see in the mirror.
  3. Several “Feels” that have Helped Others:
    1. Feel is subjective, just remember what the club should do in the takeaway. No rolling of the hands, whatsoever.
    2. Feels:
      1. Back of left hand pointing at the ball
      2. Right hand palm pointing at the ball
      3. Curling under of left hand–essentially the opposite of rolling open, you just roll the club closed in the takeaway
      4. Feel “NO Hands” in the takeaway use the torso turn to bring the club back.

Some of those feelings have helped other golfers. I strongly suggest creating your own feeling by looking in a mirror and creating the correct position first, then matching a feel with that position.

Here’s to no more rolled takeaway and a lot more on plane golf swings!

In good swinging,

Tom Saguto, PGA

 

 

Take Control of Your Ball Flight | Build Clubface Awareness

Clubface awareness is one of my favorite topics because it’s different than the norm in terms of golf instruction. In fact, if you’re hearing about it on this blog first, that’s perfectly OK, it’s a subject that is rather underrated. In the video below, Tom Saguto, PGA discusses the importance of building clubface awareness and how it can help you to master your ball flight and have a greater understanding of ballstriking in your game.

What is Clubface Awareness?

Clubface awareness is your brain and body’s ability to know where the clubface angle and club path are throughout the swing. That is, the golfer knows if the clubface is open, square, or closed, and whether the swing path is in-to-out or out-to-in. Level of golfing ability has a lot to do with how aware a golfer is of these conditions.

Expert golfers are finely tuned in clubface and path matters. They are able to distinguish to a specific degree how open or closed the clubface is and to what degree the path is in-to-out or out-to-in. For example, an expert player would be able to tell if their clubface is 3 degrees open or 2 degrees open at impact and also if their path was 3 degrees in-to-out or 5 degrees in-to-out. They are acutely aware.

On the other side, average golfers and mediocre ballstrikers may have a slight awareness of clubface and club path. For them, they might be able to tell if the clubface is open or closed, and that the path is in-to-out or out-to-in, but they won’t be able to distinguish specifically to what degree these clubface and path numbers are.

I am not suggesting that every golfer needs to know the exact angle of the clubface and club path, rather I am advocating for golfers to build a feel for their awareness of these ball flight elements.

How to Build Awareness?

Here are ball flight exercises designed to make you more aware of your clubface and path throughout the swing.

Clubface Awareness

The first and most important element regarding clubface control. The clubface angle at impact dictates the starting direction of the golf ball. 

To become aware of clubface, the golfer has to practice the following exercises. Note all of these shots are hit from a square address position–there is no aiming left or right in this process.

Beginning with very short chip shots (as seen in the video)

Hit a square clubface shot–or one that starts straight: A golfer must keep the clubface square at impact pointing at the target. To do this, the player builds a feeling of the clubface at address, and through the swing maintains the same feeling of the clubface they had at address so as to keep the clubface square throughout the swing.

Hit an open clubface shot–or one that starts right: The golfer opens the clubface and focuses on keeping the clubface open at impact to start the ball right.

Hit a closed clubface shot–or one that starts left: The golfer closes the clubface and focuses on keeping the clubface closed at impact.

As you hit shots going through these processes you are building feel of the clubface angle. If you find that you are having trouble with a particular shot start direction-wise focus especially on trying to manipulate the clubface to make the problem shot happen. Remember, feel is something that is built and trained. You must be open to trying other feels in your swing to get the clubface to behave the way you would like and execute certain shots.

Building Club Path Awareness

The club path dictates the golf ball’s curvature. These exercises will help you to understand why your ball curves in certain directions.

First, why does the ball curve?

The golf ball curves because the club path causes the clubface to impart sidespin on the golf ball. Envision hitting a ping-pong ball. If you alter the path, you change the spin of the ball. If you alter the paddle face angle, you change the start direction.

Let’s observe and analyze at some other ball flights now, Written from a right-handed player perspective:

A Push Shot (Starts Right and Flies Straight Right)

push

A Pull Shot (Starts Left and Flies Straight Left)

pull

Draw (or push draw) – Starts Right and Curves Left to Target

draw

Fade (or pull fade) – Starts Left and Curves Right to Target

fade

Path Exercises

Keeping the clubface angle constant (NO hand manipulation) hit the following shots:

Draw Pattern: The player focuses exclusively on swinging from in-to-out while keeping clubface square to target. The ball should start straight and curve left.

Fade Pattern: The player focuses on exclusively swinging from out-to-in while keeping clubface square to target. The ball should start straight and curve right.

Pull Pattern: The player focuses on exclusively swinging from out-to-in while keeping clubface closed on the same angle as the path. The ball starts left and flies straight left (no curve).

Push Pattern: The player focuses on exclusively swinging from in-to-out while keeping clubface open on the same angle as the path. The ball flies straight right and stays straight right (no curve).

The photos below show path differences that contribute to a draw or fade curvature:

 

Now that you are armed with this ball flight information. Take it to the range, experiment with different shot shapes and start directions. Forget about working on swing for a day and focus purely on hitting the shot at hand. You may surprise yourself in how you can hit a good shot with a clear head.

In good swinging,

Tom Saguto, PGA

 

 

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